Strawberries and Rhubarb: A Winning Combination

How many different dishes can I make with the classic combination of strawberries and rhubarb—let me count the ways. I'm sure you are seeing strawberries and rhubarb all over restaurant menus these days because they're in season. As you may remember, a couple of posts ago I made a strawberry-rhubarb meringue tart with a lime meringue. I'm still working the kinks out on that one, but that dessert inspired me to continue my quest for making other dishes with this dynamic duo. On one of my last jobs, I created a strawberry-rhubarb trio. On one plate we served a miniature strawberry-rhubarb meringue tart, a strawberry-rhubarb milkshake shooter and strawberry-rhubarb compote topped with mascarpone mousse. Serving duos or trios is a great way to show your guests the versatility of a seasonal fruit or vegetable.

If I haven't mentioned it already in other posts, I love sour. It’s my favorite "taste" out of the four: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. (Bitter is my least favorite, by the way.) I just love the taste of a good pucker. That being said, all flavors need balancing. I balance the pucker with fat and sweetness. Just today, we came up with a strawberry-rhubarb jam to pair with seared foie gras on brioche toast. That should be yummy—the tartness of the strawberries and rhubarb will play off nicely with the fattiness of the foie gras. Okay, so most of you aren’t going to be searing up hunks of foie gras, so why not substitute another pate?

Another winning combination is the tried and true PB&J. Peanut butter is a staple in most homes, so why not jazz it up with a quick seasonal jam or compote? Basically, I’m asking you to play with your food. Only you will really know what works and what doesn’t work with your palette.

If you like mixology, (with or without alcohol) don't forget to use the strawberry-rhubarb combo in your drinks—at least use in your lemonade. Summer is around the corner and lemonade is a must. We've all had strawberry lemonade, so why not add rhubarb juice to the strawberries as another layer of flavor? And while you’re at it, add some herbs—tarragon or basil will pair nicely.

By the way, juicing rhubarbs is not easy. They’re very fibrous, so you need a powerful juicer. Another option is to put them in a powerful blender and strain the juice through 3-4 layers of cheese cloth. Either way, the return is a beautiful thing. If it’s just too hot to cook at all, just dice the rhubarb and strawberries, toss them with red wine vinegar, some herbs, a pinch of salt and enough sugar to taste. Let the mixture macerate for an hour or so, then throw this on top of a grilled piece of chicken or fish. Rhubarb doesn’t have to be cooked despite how we are accustomed to seeing it used.

Well, I hope to hear about your creations with strawberries and rhubarb soon. Remember to cook with love!

Carla Hall was a finalist on Top Chef: Season 5 and runs Alchemy Caterers Washington, D.C.  


- Carla’s Corner: Behind the Scenes at Pebble Beach
See all of Carla’s posts here 

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